- Laura Hall moved to Denmark from the UK with her family in 2017.
- She was drawn to Copenhagen because it ranks as one of the best places to raise a family.
- Hall said she was surprised by the approach to “hygge” and hands-off parenting.
In 2017, I was working remotely from the UK as a communications director. kid & cois a family travel startup, and my husband worked for a company with offices all over the world. We knew that the Brexit vote would limit our chances of working abroad, so we wanted to live in Europe for a few years while we could.
We were on vacation in Copenhagen, Denmark. The car-free culture was fascinating, and it was also an opportunity to live a more sustainable life and see what life is like in the ranked countries. One of the best areas to raise children. We also met some Danes during our trip.
We bought a one-way ticket to the city, rented a house and set out. It’s been almost 7 years since he left and we are now permanent residents with no plans to return to the UK.
I came to Denmark before the Brexit changes, so it was easy to get permanent residency. As we were European Union citizens, our residency application was a formality. This is what surprised us the most since the move.
“Hygge” culture trumps hustle culture
I thought people might be exaggerating the Danish concept of “hygge”. Hey, was I wrong?Hygge, The Danish concept of taking time to relax and enjoy simple comforts is all here.
When you go out for drinks with friends, it’s “hyggelig,” which means fun and comfortable. The pool has a lane for fast swimmers, a lane for medium swimmers, and a lane for hygge swimmers.
It’s a cultural experience. “Comfortable” is the perfect translation. Rather, it’s about enjoying the moment, finding joy in each other’s company, and prioritizing the good moments. That may be why there is no real hustle culture here. People usually don’t prioritize being uncomfortable over enjoying a warm and cozy time.
Danish children are independent
One of the funniest conversations I’ve had was with parents about what to give their kids for Christmas. She was considering a hunting knife. Her son was 5 years old. It was completely normal for her. But as a British mother, all I could think about was the safety risk.
In Denmark, children are much more independent from an early age than in the UK. I often see children walking home from school alone or doing activities at a much younger age than would be acceptable in my home country. Even in Danish kindergarten, my children play next to an active fireplace. They are trusted to be independent and are therefore more resilient.
The weather is very different to England
Despite being just across the North Sea from England, the climate is very different. Summers are very warm and winters are very cold. In winter, the port can freeze over, making it even more dramatic. Summer offers weeks of nearly uninterrupted sunshine and plenty of sandy beaches to play on. We feel much closer to the weather than we did in England. Probably because I do everything by bike.
It’s all about the community
A few years ago, Denmark’s word of the year was “samfundssind,” which means community.
Academic research cites Denmark’s strong sense of community and trust in government as reasons for this. low infection and mortality rates compared to other European countries. In Copenhagen, the lockdown was quick and short-lived because people cooperated, had high trust in the government and authorities, and followed the rules.
The spirit of community is reflected in the flat hierarchy of Danish business and its commitment to equality.
I love the sense of community in my neighborhood and at work. Living here is a big plus.
On the other hand, it can be difficult to stand out in some way. Unlike in the UK or US, being too personal can be frowned upon. Also, bragging about yourself or your accomplishments doesn’t make a good impression.
It’s not perfect, but I like it very much
There is a lot of hype about Denmark being one of the happiest countries in the world, but that ignores many factors. We have had nothing but good experiences as British expats. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all friends.
I feel uncomfortable at times because of the underlying sexism and racism. The drive for equality is admirable, but it is a work in progress. In Denmark, there are more top business leaders called Lars and Peter than there are female CEOs. However, I think these issues are being discussed more and more.
I love living in Copenhagen. I love swimming in the harbor. I love my Danish friends. People say on the internet that it’s difficult to make Danish friends as an expatriate, but I don’t think so. And he loves living in a city where everything is 15 minutes away by bike.
I am impressed by the incredible kindness and warmth of the Danish people. They are intimidatingly tall and beautiful, but always want to have fun.
I love a lifestyle that allows me to continue working at a job I love while being a parent to happy, well-bred children. Life is good here.
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